Skip to content

Is emotional voting always irrational?

Matthew Gibson makes a good case that the Lib Dems need to get more emotional.

There will always be those, particularly in the Lib Dems, who focus entirely on policy. There will always be wiser-than-thou comments about the intelligence of the electorate. But in doing so they risk ignoring an important fact: emotion and cognitive bias are unavoidable flaws of policy making, too.

Any sophisticated voter is going to take the candidates themselves and the parties’ biases into account. Manifestos and policies will be inherently flawed by that party’s own emotional makeup. Voters are going to make judgements on the ability of the party to actually deliver what they say they will. They ask whether a given policy is a genuine intention, an idealistic pipe dream, or simply a sop or a bribe. To assume one’s policies are a fair and pure reflection of one’s future performance is naive and high-minded – an accusation the Lib Dem technocrats should be aware of.

Even from a purely technical standpoint, we know that any given policy may need to be changed or even ditched once actually put to the test. That is the reality of complex systems. Therefore, we assess the candidates purely on how they might handle themselves after a pet policy has failed. This is an issue that cannot be adequately addressed on a policy basis.

None of this denies that the emotional aspect of voting can lead to irrational voting behaviours. Nor does it dismiss the importance of solutions based thinking. But it does provide a solid basis for “getting more emotional” that avoids the trap of thinking it is automatically manipulative or condescending to do so.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Jon,

    Great post. Said so much better than I could have said it and I couldn’t agree more. You have a really nice writing style and politics needs more holistically considered people to reach everyone. Glad you decided to ‘get involved’ as you say.


    November 22, 2010
  2. Jon #

    Aw, shucks. Thanks.

    November 22, 2010

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS